The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Broadmoor Art Academy by looking to the past with “Notes from the Musick Collection” and the idyllic future with “Utopia: A New Society for All.” These exhibits opened Saturday, inviting audiences to think about their connections with the people around them in a new light.
The Broadmoor Art Academy began in 1919, teaching young artists the latest techniques and classic elements of design. In 1929, following the Great Depression, the institute sought to create a cultural center for the community. Thus, the Fine Arts Center was born. Opening in 1936, it celebrated the art and culture of the Pikes Peak region, as it continues to do today.
‘Notes from the Musick Collection’
The Fine Arts Center installed a permanent collection featuring the works of Broadmoor students in December and has plans to install a comprehensive temporary exhibition on the same themes this fall. For curator Joy Armstrong, the Archie Musick collection completes this history.
“This show really bridges the gap between the permanent collection and the temporary exhibition, by taking a very personal approach to looking at not just the stylistic changes that happened at the academy during the years, but more about the people and their relationships with each other that influenced those changes.”
These pieces highlight the early work of Musick, whose work centered on the Garden of the Gods, and the work of his peers at the Broadmoor Art Academy. Curated in part by his daughter, Pat Musick, the art shows his early style as well as the influence of those around him.
“I remember an exhibition of a number of prints by different artists,” Pat Musick says, “and there were numerous prints of Garden of the Gods. In some ways they looked similar, but they all had a slightly different individual take on the landscape. You could see the germ of how those artists would keep developing in their different directions.”
Archie Musick began his art career after being kicked off a train in Pueblo. Having always been fascinated by the beauty of the West, Musick took the opportunity to explore the area.
“He talks about walking through the Garden of the Gods for the first time. It was like some dream that he’d almost forgotten and couldn’t quite remember, but all of a sudden you were walking among it,” Pat Musick says.
Archie Musick spent time working in Los Angeles and New York in addition to his time at the Broadmoor Art Academy, learning and connecting with as many artists as he could. But he always felt the pull to return to Colorado Springs.
“There was this very strong heart connection with the land here, and a tie that they all felt to the West,” his daughter says.
Printing was a burgeoning art form in the 1930s that allowed common people to enjoy the beauty of art. Musick worked with well-known artists such as Jackson Pollock and Bernard Steffen in their early years and shared in their artistic struggles.
“I think they felt they were brothers in arms on this quest in exploring what art is and what the arts can do,” Pat Musick says. “They were sharing everything, not trying to best each other.”
The exhibit runs through February, working with other pieces at the museum to capture a sense of imagination upon which the center was founded.
Armstrong says, “Even when they (the pieces) are dark — and some of them are and feel very brooding and serious — there’s a whimsy that captures the imagination. I think that is very special.”
‘Utopia: A New Society for All’
Musick’s work reflects the importance of friendship and community. This same message is expressed in “Utopia” by Becky Wareing Steele, a collaborative project that invites people to work together to make a better world. This is represented in a diorama, where citizens and their choices are brought to life.
Citizens of Utopia join the movement by completing a quick questionnaire on Wareing Steele’s website, and affirming that they will participate in the democratic process by voting, and that they will accept everyone regardless of age, creed, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, disability or national origin.
Curator Blair Huff says, “I really love that at the heart of this project is this affirmation that as a citizen of Utopia, you agree to assist in the creation of a new society that is open to all. I think that’s a really lovely, inclusive message that’s at the heart of this project.”
The piece is designed to resemble the American Southwest, with red dirt and Earthship-style abodes. The homes are fully sustainable, another important mission of the Utopia project.
“I think one of the main starting tenants of Utopia is the general love and respect for everyone, but also a sustainable restart to our future. If we were given the opportunity to restart our current structures for society, what would it look like for a fully sustainable future?” Wareing Steele says.
Each of the citizens of Utopia is represented in miniature but also in creative vision. Ballots are sent out for nearly every decision, from which crops should be grown to how the community center should look. Citizens also have gone above and beyond, coming together to create tangible representations of their new nationalism.
In 2017, Denver-based composer and Utopia citizen Nathan Hall composed a national anthem for the project, with the help of other citizens. Several of them then recorded the track around his home piano. This song, and the flag of Utopia, are on display in the exhibit. Fiber artist Shawana Doering started the flag project and led sewing circles with her fellow citizens. These individuals have taken the project and ran with it.
Wareing Steele says, “As the project has progressed, the citizens have helped to develop the narrative too.”
Conversation is key to the exhibition. “Utopia as a project really brings forth a lot of ideas about how we interact with each other and how we interact with the world,” Huff says.
The installation runs through Nov. 3.
Wareing Steele hopes people “will take away a feeling of empowerment in knowing that we can impact change on a smaller scale within our own communities, but those changes echo throughout the world too. These smaller connections that you make within local communities can translate and become part of the global conversation as well.”
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